st mary's church amport

history

The advowson of Amport was given in 1217 to the Canons of Chichester Cathedral by William de St John, son of Adam de Port. His ancestor, Hugh de Port, came from a village in Normandy, Port en Bessin, after whom the village was named, and it still remains with Chichester Cathedral. The first record of an incumbent at St Mary’s is in the register of Bishop John de Pontoise of Winchester which, as its very first entry in 1282, notes the institution of Thomas de Anne to the vicarage of Anne.

The Manor of Anne de Port, now known as Amport, is listed in the Domesday Book of 1087, the original name of the village being Anne, the Celtic name for the Pilhill Brook, as in Abbotts Ann and Anna Valley. After the Battle of Hastings it was presented by William the Conqueror to Hugh de Port, who took his name from Port-en-Bessin, the fishing village near Bayeux where he was born. (Hugh de Port was the largest non-ecclesiastical landowner in the Domesday Book).

The present church was completed in 1330 in the Decorated style and luckily was completed before the Black Death reached the south of England. Amport’s priest was one of many who died of the disease during the outbreak of 1348/9. The advowson still remains with the Dean and Chapter of Chichester Cathedral. There were also chapels belonging to the church of Amport at East Cholderton and Appleshaw. The church was extended and considerably restored in 1866.

Amport Church is a Grade II* listed building and much of the original church still exists, although part of the Nave was rebuilt in 1866 as it had fallen into a bad state of repair, at which time the gallery at the back of the church was removed and was extended by 12 feet. This was to accommodate the large font, which was donated to the parish by the Earl of Dudley.

Also at this time the North Transept was pulled down and rebuilt with a cellar housing a complex heating system. This comprised a coke stove, covered in metal panelling which provided hot air through large tunnels under the floor of the church with grills to allow the hot air into the church. These went the length of the nave with branches to the South transept and to the choir and a return air tunnel from the back of the nave, under the heating tunnel, back to the stove. However, it was reported that this system did not work very well and it was later modified to allow the hot air to go straight up through a large grill in the floor of the North transept. This too was not very efficient and it was finally abandoned after electricity was installed in 1939-40 and electric heaters fitted. In 2017 the tunnels were re-discovered and found to be in very good condition, and it was decided to make use of them with modern heaters. The old coke stove was removed from the cellar and electric heater units, with fans fitted in trunking connecting it to the tunnels. This has been found to be very effective and Amport church has now lost its reputation of being the coldest church in the district.

During alterations in 1905, a recess for the organ was formed by building a new wall between the N transept and the vestry. The organ, which had been installed in 1871, was moved there but there is no record of where it was before. At the same time the two small arches to the W of the organ were cut through into the N transept “so as to increase the sound of the organ in the body of the church”.